Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mason joins elite company as Flyers blank depleted Red Wings

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

When was the last time you could say the Flyers and Red Wings were battling for playoff position?

How about never.

The two franchises have been on two separate tracks, and for the last 47 years, competing in either opposite divisions or conferences.

On Tuesday night, it was the third and final meeting scheduled for this season, and the most meaningful contest between the franchises since June of 1997.

Due to the vagaries of the new playoff format, and the struggles each have faced through two-thirds of the schedule, these clubs will most likely be sparring for the two wild-card spots available in the eight-team intra-conference format. The eighth-place Wings had a game in hand on the 10th-place Flyers and a one-point margin, but that disappeared as Philly claimed a 5-0 victory.

Steve Mason clocked in with 33 saves for his second clean sheet of the year, the first Philly goalie to blank Detroit since Roman Cechmanek in 2001. It was a perfect going-away present for the club, which begins a three-game California road trip at Anaheim on Thursday.

The hosts' path was made much easier due to the fact that Detroit was missing five principals: forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and goaltender Jimmy Howard.

Wings head coach Mike Babcock was nonplussed.

“I thought we did lots of good things early, I thought we were in it, and then too many self-inflicted wounds,” Babcock said. “To me, not good enough. For us to have success right now we got to be detail-orientated and be hard-working and we didn’t have enough details tonight, with or without the puck. We gave them three of the five goals, that can’t happen if you want to have success.”

Scott Hartnell picked up his first multi-goal effort since last April, Adam Hall and Sean Couturier lit the lamp and Claude Giroux added a goal and two assists for the Orange and Black, who recovered from a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the Bruins on home ice this past Saturday.

"We needed to get our confidence back, need to have our confidence high going into that trip," said Hartnell, whose club closed the books on a four-game losing skid.

Jonas Gustavsson was on the hook for all five goals on 28 shots, as the Wings dropped two of three to Philadelphia this season.

"It's embarrassing, walking out of this arena tonight," groused Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, one of the few regulars forced to slog through one of the team's worst losses this year. 

On the front end of a cross-checking minor to Danny DeKeyser, Timonen let go a low, hard blast from the point which was redirected through Niklas Kronwall's and Gustavsson's legs by Hartnell at 13:42 of the first period. 

Hartnell was denied as the clock moved beyond five minutes played in the second. He was set up perfectly by a cross-ice dish from Giroux off a 2-on-1, but Gustavsson did the full splits in his crease to knock the puck away.

Giroux then fed Hartnell again on the left wing, and he made no mistake with a drive that hit the back of the net at the 8:08 mark.

Gustavsson was strong again to deny a breakaway backhander from Vincent Lecavalier minutes later, but was fooled by a Hall backhander from the right side with 8:58 to play and the hosts led 3-0.

Mason once again did his part, emulating Gustavsson on his own split-save against Luke Glendening with 7 1/2 minutes left, and then got some luck when Kyle Quincey shot the rebound high and wide with three-quarters of the net open.

Hartnell appeared to be a bit allergic to a trifecta, dishing off any chance he could in the third period, but it paid off when he led Giroux up the left wing, and he blew a shot off Gustavsson's glove and in for a four-goal spread just after the midway point.

"You give him the puck, you're going to get it back," Hartnell said of his old/new linemate. "That second period, I could have had two or three goals. He tells me to always go to the net with my stick on the ice, and I thought we did a really good job tonight. He's one of the best passers in the game. He thinks the game, he's competitive. When he goes, we go as a team."

Couturier's wraparound against a passive Wings defense with 3:51 to play was the additional dagger.

Mason capped his shutout with three more sweeping glove stops, keeping Detroit winless here since the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. 

Notes: Bernie Parent (2-0, 11/16/76) and Wayne Stephenson (3-0, 11/13/77) also kept the Wings off the scoreboard, and all four Flyers shutouts against Detroit have occurred in Philadelphia ... Hartnell recorded his 30th career two-goal game and first since his hat trick last April 15 at Montreal ...  Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who logged only 7:20 of ice time, did not play past the late stages of the second period after blocking a shot, and was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury that Berube stated was not serious ... The Orange and Black have beaten the Wings eight straight times during the regular season in Philadelphia, four off the franchise record of 12 straight set from Oct. 14, 1973 to Nov. 19, 1978 ... Detroit suffered through its third consecutive road shutout defeat, after losing to Anaheim and the New York Rangers by identical scores of 1-0 from Jan. 12-16.
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